caregiving, Come to Me, Duty, elderly parents, faith, family, father, friends, grief, home, hope, joy, loss, love, Matthew 11:28, mercy, missing, Missing Dad, missing persons, parents, patience, prayer, responsibility, search, search dogs, siblings, strength, trust
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Sometime between dawn and eight AM on Friday the eleventh of June, Tony Karabaic left his home to take a walk. He locked the inside door and the porch door. He didn’t set the alarm because sometimes he would forget how to make it stop. He walked down Huntington, made a left at the corner of Livingston, and walked down past Forest Drive to the shortcut path through the woods to Salem Road.
At 8:10 that same morning, his morning caregiver, Vee the RN, arrived. She rang the bell; no answer. She took out her key and let herself in. She stood in the living room and called his name; no answer. He was hard of hearing; maybe he just didn’t hear her. His tan corduroy recliner—its worn fringed throw flung haphazardly over it—was empty. The piles of papers on the coffee table were in the same places they were in yesterday. Nothing seemed to be disturbed. There was no radio on—maybe he wasn’t at home? She would have to look.
She walked into the dining room. His pajamas were draped over the back of a dining chair. That was good—the last time he went out for an early morning walk, he was wearing his pajamas and slippers. Vee went into the kitchen. No dishes in the sink or on the table, but the bowl and glass were in the dish drainer. Had he eaten his breakfast? Where was he? She glanced over to the kitchen table, to see if his pills were in the gold glass ashtray on the table. There were a couple left in there—she looked to see which ones they were. Good—the afternoon and evening doses of Sinemet, his Parkinson’s med. The morning dose, the Xalatan, and the Felodipine were gone. She walked out of the kitchen to check the small bedroom, where his granddaughter Alyssa’s toys and drawings were. The high-riser bed was made up, with its hand-crocheted afghan neatly tucked beneath the foam bunker cushions, the little stuffed cats and bears neatly arranged atop them. He sometimes took a nap here later in the day, but this bed hadn’t been slept on lately. He was nowhere to be seen.
Vee went back into the living room, and up the stairs. She turned left at the top of the stairs, to look in his bedroom. The room reminded her of a monk’s cell, with its spartan twin bed, simple chest, and holy pictures on the wall. The bedsheets and blankets were rumpled; the room bore the warm, heavy scent of sleep. Okay, it looked like he had spent the night here—that was something. She went into the master bedroom, where his late wife, Georgia, used to sleep. There were papers and envelopes neatly arranged on the white chenille bedspread, but no Tony. She looked in the little office. She looked in the extra bedroom where his kids slept when they stayed for the weekend. She entered the bathroom, pulled the shower curtain aside, checked the bathtub. She went down to the basement. Those stairs were so treacherous. She walked around, both hoping to find him, and hoping not to. But he wasn’t there.
She went back upstairs.
The clothes he had worn the day before were also on the dining room chairs. That was another good sign. That meant he definitely hadn’t left last night—Vee had probably just missed him. Maybe he went to the store. He liked bananas, and he’d eaten his last brown one yesterday. She went back outside to see if he was in the yard.
The car was still there, but that was because the battery had died two months ago, and his children had not wanted to replace it. No one wanted him to drive anymore. She’d heard that they’d already talked to him about selling the car to Alyssa’s boyfriend. Vee couldn’t get into the garage, but she knocked hard on the door, and then listened to see if she could hear anything inside. Nothing.
“Tony? Are you in there, Tony?”
She walked around the garage to the backyard, looked behind the shed, went around the other side of the house, past the lilac bushes and the dogwood tree.
“Tony? Are you there?”
Nothing. No one.
She called Glenn, his midday companion, and told him that Tony was gone. They talked for a minute, and decided it would be most efficient if they each got into their own cars, and drove around Union separately to look for him.
Vee texted Alyssa’s mother, Barbara, that our dad had gone wandering again.
Barbara is the youngest of my three sisters. She, her husband George, and daughter Alyssa live about a half-mile away from Dad’s, on the other side of Salem Road, in Union, New Jersey.
Barbara had been through something just like this with Dad the week before. In the early morning of June 2nd, he showed up at Alyssa’s old school in his pajamas and slippers. The cops had brought him back home.
Barb had emailed me that night, saying that we were going to have to find him a daytime nurse to keep him from wandering. That was the third time now, and so far, we had been lucky.
Vee and Glenn drove for about a half hour, crisscrossing Union. They went to the cemetery—always the first choice. Until recently, no matter what the weather was, he visited Mom’s grave every single day. It had been almost five years.
As soon as she got Vee’s text, Barb emailed me that Dad was missing from the house and that Vee and Glenn were out looking. Just before I saw this in my inbox, my husband Frank came into my studio to say we’d had a missed call from a 908 number. I figured it had to be Vee checking in, so I called her, and that’s how I found out Dad was on the move and no one knew where.
I called Barbara. We decided to get the Union County police involved right away.
It was around nine when I called them—they had been so helpful the other three times this had happened—the policemen had found him and brought him home before any one of us ever knew he was lost. The UCPD dispatcher told me they would send someone to the house. I called Vee, and Glenn, and they went back to Dad’s to meet the cops.
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